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[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of columns from Weldon Long and Sharon Roberts, who enjoy an open and spirited collaboration. Although they come from different backgrounds, they have developed a professional relationship that uniquely expands the synergy of those differences.]
Weldon: People buy from people they like and trust.
This axiom is sales strategy 101. If we have heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times and few of us would ever question the common sense of this basic sales wisdom. Nevertheless, as sales legend Zig Ziglar often said, “Just because it’s common sense doesn’t mean it’s common practice.”
Having had the privilege of sharing the stage with business and organizational development titans Tom Hopkins and Dr. Stephen R. Covey, I have learned from the masters that relationship building is critical to business and sales success.
But knowing that relationship building is vital to success in kitchen-table sales does not necessarily help in understanding how to build a relationship at the kitchen table.
Fortunately, the fundamentals of forging a relationship is a skill just like technical and mechanical skills, and it can be learned just as systematically.
Sharon: I agree that half of relationship building requires left-brain abilities, such as language, logic, and critical thinking. I would add right-brain abilities that are equally important to focus on and develop are recognizing faces, expressing emotion, reading emotion, intuition (gut feeling), and creativity. Current research shows that we make the best decisions when we call on both halves of our brain to work together in coherence.
Research, including that by neurocardiologist Dr. J. Andrew Armour, has shown that emotion and reasoning are parallels. It’s not head versus heart — it’s head and heart. Science caught up with what’s been common sense in sales circles forever. People buy based on emotion then justify their decision with logic.
Weldon: The easiest way to build a relationship at the kitchen table is to ask questions. Questions about your prospect’s family, work, or recreational activities can often lead to your prospect feeling comfortable with you. People love to talk about themselves and their interests and they appreciate genuine interest from others.
Zig Ziglar once suggested using the acronym FORM to get ideas for questions. FORM stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Material possessions. Ask your homeowner about any of these topics and you may surprised at where the conversation leads.
For example, ask your homeowner questions like, “So what line of work are you in?” or “How did you get into that kind of work?” Next thing you know your prospect is telling you stories of how his grandfather got him into a particular field. Get a prospect telling you personal stories and you are taking a huge step toward building a relationship and earning his business.
Sharon: And, while you’ve been sincerely connecting with them, their brains have responded with a big rise in the powerful, feel-good chemicals, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Connection matters — look what happens.
Dopamine fires the pleasure centers in the brain. It promotes alertness, energy, and motivates people to take action. Serotonin creates feelings of security, confidence, happiness, and joy. Oxytocin — the happy hormone — is one of our primary bonding chemicals. It provides higher levels of oxytocin and promotes acceptance, nurturing, and protection. Endorphins create a euphoric high; they love dopamine. Endorphins are the brain’s stress fighters and pain killers.
Sincere connection is very good for business and everyone needs it. It’s critical to be sure to engage with everyone at the table. If you’re meeting with a couple, be sure you are building rapport with both of them. It’s easy to focus on the one you’re most comfortable to talk with. Don’t be guilty of giving one of them two seconds of eye contact at the end of a sentence here and there. That drives dopamine down and that’s not good for business.
And then there are the quiet people who choose not to talk. They may be shy or perhaps it’s simply a matter of their personal style. It takes courage for them to open up to strangers under any circumstance. That’s especially so if it’s about something as personal as their home, family, and finances. When that happens, I quietly ask, “Would you like for me to tell you a bit about us first?” Their relief is visible. Cordial and conversational tends to work best. It’s amazing how powerful sincere interest is. There is so much that people will talk with you about when they believe you genuinely have their best interest at heart. And, that is very good for business.
Weldon: Often times when I am working with sales groups across the country, attendees will complain that asking questions about personal issues bogs down the sales process and unnecessarily complicates sales activities. I remember once having this discussion with Dr. Covey who wrote the landmark bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” When I mentioned this to Dr. Covey, his response was simple and to the point: “When it comes to building relationships, slow is fast. You can’t be efficient when it comes to people. You can only be effective.” Sound advice from one of the brightest minds of the 20th century.
Sharon: I love Dr. Covey’s quote. It makes my heart hurt every time someone asks me how to speed through the small talk and get down to business so they can sell something. Good grief, the feel good chemicals will never launch with that attitude — they will launch stress hormones such as, cortisol, adrenalin, and noradrenalin instead. The so-called small talk is the big talk. And, in fact, closing starts at the beginning with conscious connection.
Weldon: In the process of building relationships, it is also important to keep the focus on the homeowner. While it is important to find commonalities with your prospect, whether it be fishing, motorcycles, hunting, or anything else, it is critical to remember that your homeowner wants to talk about his or her fishing, motorcycles, or hunting, not yours. It can be tempting to discuss your interests to show commonality, but often that can come across as trying to one-up your homeowner.
Brian Tracy once said that in sales you must imagine that you are on stage with your prospect and there is only one spotlight. You must ensure that the spotlight remains on your prospect.
My advice to sales professionals is that if you ever feel the glare of the spotlight on you, it is very important to get the spotlight back on your prospect. The quickest way to do that is to ask your prospect a question about their likes and interests, and see where the conversation goes from there.
The fundamentals of sales success demand that we become experts at asking questions. Whether the questions are about family, work, or what the prospect does for fun, questions can fuel a conversation that goes far beyond the scope of HVAC systems and leads to building quality relationships. Show genuine interest in your prospect through questions, keep the spotlight on them, and watch your sales performance dramatically improve.
Sharon: The imagery of the spotlight is great. From start to finish, you are literally modeling, “This is what it will be like to do business with us.”
Publication date: 8/12/2013